Simpson Crossing Yes - No?

Submitted: Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 09:20
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I'm considering a trip through the Simpson desert in 2014. No plans made yet, still very early days, but I just want to see what others think about ....

Do you think it would be irresponsible to travel alone (1 vehicle, 2 occupants)?

The vehicle will have lockers, winch, straps etc, lots of drinking water, sat phone, uhf phone, gps, maps.

The driver will have experience, common sense and an aversion to self harm (getting lost, stuck etc).

There are some tracks I wouldn't consider travelling alone, but from all accounts, the Simpson desert is pretty well travelled, so the chances of being stuck on your own for a long period of time is not very likely.

I've not gone through the Simpson before, but if it's like the Oodnadatta track (which I travelled in 2012 and thought was supposed to be remote), then I should see someone every 5 - 30 minutes.

Thanks.
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Reply By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 09:34

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 09:34
Yes By all means. We drove through there last August and enjoyed the trip. We took the WAA line, down to Lone Gum and his mates, Up Knolls Track to the French line and out to Birdsville on the QAA line. Hopefully up out the Hay River Track next time. We and didn't see a car for the first two days. We found it an easy drive.

We have a 100 series 4.2TD. Slightly lifted. No lockers. 285 wide tyres. Both experienced as you appear to be. Sat phone for emergency comms. UHF for local stuff. We are basically self sufficient. And a long range tank added. We carry 215 ltrs total. Fuel usage was 24 ltrs per 100Kms. But we are a "heavy" car. Tyres were at 20 and 26.

It is not to be thought of as a walk in the park but if what you say about your experience is correct you should be fine.

Phil


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Reply By: Wayne (NSW) - Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 09:41

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 09:41
Siringo,

Yes very irresponsible, single vehicle crossing.
Lockers will not be much use in sand, same as the winch, and a snatch strap is not much good with out another vehicle.

You are going to rely on others travellers to assist you when you get stuck, no doubt they will help, but why should they put there vehicle and recovery gear at risk because you have acted irresponsibility.

Wayne
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Reply By: Siringo - Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 09:50

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 09:50
Thanks for the replies. 1 all at this stage, I'm interested to see what others think as well.
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Follow Up By: Siringo - Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 09:52

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 09:52
Um, read through the first reply again. Maybe it's 2 irresposible and 0 OK's???
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Follow Up By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 15:49

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 15:49
No way too irresponsible. You said "The driver will have experience, common sense and an aversion to self harm (getting lost, stuck etc)". I responded according to those words words. I took it that the driver had the right skills. Wrong!!!

After reading what you just said and also the bit in your posta about the Oodnadatta track I will change my mind and say a difinitive NO.

Phil
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Reply By: Ozrover - Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 09:59

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 09:59
Siringo,

You haven't said what time of year you are planning on crossing the Simpson Desert.

If you plan on crossing early in the season, say from mid March to the end of May, then I wouldn't advise doing it solo, as there won't be many people crossing at that time, same goes for late in the season, late September to December 1st.

If you are planning on going between these periods, then no problems, just keep in mind that if you do have problems at any time going solo, you will need help from others, be it fellow travelers of a recovery from us or Birdsville Auto, which can be expensive.

In any case either buy of hire a Sat phone!

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Follow Up By: Olsen's 4WD Tours and Training - Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 10:15

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 10:15
Good comment as always Jeff. BTW how are things there at present?

I personally don't recommend anyone lacking previous experience tackle the desert. Gain some experience with someone first.

Jeff's point is one I refer to often - the cost of recovery can be horrendous- rightly so too I might add, but often not considered by travellers.
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Follow Up By: Siringo - Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 10:15

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 10:15
Thanks for the reply Jeff.

I haven't put much thought into the trip yet, however I would prefer to travel during a cooler time of year and I'm not sure when that period is for the Simpson desert region (there's an example of how early in the trip prep I am), but the first half of the year fits in with my work best.

I do have at least 6 mates who have crossed the Simpson (as well as many more areas) more than once, so I have access to people with first hand knowledge and will be speaking to them as well.

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Follow Up By: Ozrover - Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 10:25

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 10:25
David,
All good starting to pick up after the summer.

Siringo,

I would try to plan your trip from the end of May (still nice & warm) to around the end of July (getting cold at night), there will be people travelling across (maybe too many at times) & hopefully the tracks won't be as chopped up as later in the season.

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Follow Up By: Siringo - Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 10:34

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 10:34
Thanks once again Jeff (and others), that timeframe sounds perfect.

I think the cost of recovery is most likely the biggest point against travelling alone, but I wanted to ask the question anyway.

Maybe my next question should be, where should I start with regards to planning my trip?

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Follow Up By: Olsen's 4WD Tours and Training - Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 13:17

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 13:17
Siringo


The best way to start is to work out the amount of available time you have- allow for travel to and from and be conservative. Plan for a couple of nights stay at special places that way if you have trouble, you have days that you can sacrifice. Distances travelled in the desert vary, but I don't plan on more than about 90k per day average though of course some days you can do several hundred if you wanted to- this is where experience helps.

David
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Follow Up By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 16:23

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 16:23
Good to read your words of wisdom Jeff.

A question without notice: You can tell that I am in Canberra hey!!!

What is the biggest cause that you and the mates on the "other side" have to do a recovery? Vehicle breakages, driver experience or nature based?

Phil
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Follow Up By: Ozrover - Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 17:46

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 17:46
Hi Phil,

I'll try & not take the thread off topic but as far as the "most common" breakdown occurrence is (& I can't speak for Barnsey), in my experience If I had to nail it down would be gearbox/driveline issues i.e. clutch failure, broken gear linkages, broken gearboxes (auto as well as manual) broken uni-joints etc...

Although, pretty much anything can & will break at some point in time!

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Follow Up By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 18:02

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 18:02
Interesting. I thought that it would be the vehicle. So what this bloke should do is whether he is on his own or with a group is to get a real good pre-trek checkup by someone other than himself. Preferably a good 4WD mechanic. That's where I was heading Jeff.

He didn't mention anything about the car's age or reliability. I know you asked me that before even answering my questions when I was at your place.

My bloke at Hume Offroad is tops.

Thanks mate. One day I will be back.

Phil
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Reply By: Mark T6 - Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 12:50

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 12:50
I did a Simmo crossing in 2011, not alone with 5 other vehicles BUT we saw quite a few in a single vehicle situation.

My Prado, doesn't have a winch, doesn't have lockers, but does have better suspension and a 50mm lift (which made a lot of difference).

Apart from a complete failure (and for a fee the boys at Mount Dare or Birdsville will come and rescue you), if you had a set of Maxtrax (I did and we did use them for another vehicle that had not been lifted and was way way too heavy), and a good shovel I reckon you'd be fine.

I would go mid season (we went in July), it's not like Pitt Street BUT plenty of other vehicles and so as long as you have a Sat Phone and the above you can't go wrong....well you can I suppose but unlikely to be a huse issue.

Just make sure you have reserve water and reserve food supplies, and the worst that can happen is you might be stuck for 24 hours until someone comes along and can winch or snatch you out.


Great trip don't miss it!!
AnswerID: 507126

Reply By: jo b1 - Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 12:57

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 12:57
A big yes from me and you will have a ball.
We've done the trip several times, solo and with others.
Give me a solo trip any day.
Stop where and when you want.
J
AnswerID: 507127

Reply By: Siringo - Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 13:43

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 13:43
Thanks for all the replies, much appreciated. I'm really keen to do this trip.

Maxx trax or similar and/or a land anchor of some description will be on the 'to buy' list.

I know it's not as long, but I most of Goog's Track, north - south on my own and didn't think it was hard at all. Had not an ounce of trouble with anything, as I said, I know it's not as long and the dunes aren't as large, but it's a good starter.
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Reply By: olcoolone - Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 13:44

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 13:44
One very important thing often overlooked...... If the regular drive becomes ill or injured can you drive the vehicle and make it out safely.

As for the Simpson be pretty well traveled by others...... yes and no, if you can wait 10-20 Hrs for another vehicle to come along that's fine but if you can only wait 1-2 hrs then there may be serious consequences.

When travelling always think your the only ones out there and help is 5 days away.

QUOTE"I've not gone through the Simpson before, but if it's like the Oodnadatta track (which I traveled in 2012 and thought was supposed to be remote), then I should see someone every 5 - 30 minutes."

When travelling always think your the only ones out there and help is 5 days away...... and no the Simpson is not like the Oodnadatta track just as the Oodnadatta track is not like a suburban freeway.

Don't get me wrong the Simpson is not hard but common sense and vehicle and personal preparation has to be followed.
AnswerID: 507132

Follow Up By: Member - VickiW - Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 21:39

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 21:39
Olcoonone has made some good points. Main risks I can think of (now) are:

1. Driver illness or injury - a risk anywhere slightly remote so you need a method of contacting emergency services and you need a good first aid kit (& training) something a lot of us wouldn't expect but we still need to think about.
2. vehicle issue - depending on how self sufficient you are in vehicle repairs - just make sure you know how to contact help for recovery & be prepared to pay :)
3. Wet weather - if there's any risk of rain stay well away - see 2 with more wait involved! (the Park would probably be closed if they are expecting much rain anyway)
4. Getting stuck - if you travel during the season & on well travelled tracks and carry recovery gear (shovel, maxtrax) this is not such a problem - if anything we have found the Simpson too busy, although we travelled the more busy routes as we were single vehicle. Plus I am sure there would be plenty of people only too happy to get into the spirit to help anyone stuck! We have jumped to help others in the past as it's part of the fun.

However, getting stuck every second dune would get annoying (saw a group experiencing this a couple of years ago, annoying for them and us as we were stuck behind them for a long time) so perhaps join a local 4WD club and get some practice in sand / dune driving.

Also follow the advice re tyre pressure.

I'd also like to travel the Simpson next year but, as I'm a single vehicle and a single person, I'll only do if I can go with a group.
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Reply By: Sneaky Pete - Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 14:31

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 14:31
We have gone across several times solo. There are usually people around. As long as you are prepared That is all that is necessary. Long handle shovel, Serviced 4X4, Flag on pole ,winching device . We have a hand one (never used) Be aware of where you going . Food Water and good first aid kit. and time to take it easy. A bit different to Oodnadatta as lots of sand but let your tyres down and listen on Desert call channel (UHF). As a number of crazeys going through. We came across lead group blasting dunes and not acknowledging on radio hence we met at top of dune.

French line is relativity easy just sand
AnswerID: 507137

Reply By: Siringo - Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 16:53

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 16:53
It's been interesting reading the replies, thanks to you all.

I was thinking. If you're aware that you may need up to 5 litres of drinking water/day, know how to replace replaceable items on your vehicle (plus a little more), carry 25% more food than you would normally eat during a crossing, have a well serviced car, carry adequate recovery gear, carry appropriate communications and GPS equipment, carry a tyre plug kit, 2 spare wheels and maybe a few extra tyres, do understand how sand/dunes slow a vehicle almost instantly and you are reasonably fit, is anyone less irresponsible than anyone else to travel across the Simpson desert on their own.

You may have travelled across solo 25 times, but it may be the 26th you need recovering, would you be irresponsible then?

I mentioned the Oodnadatta track because I'd only ever heard it refered to as being a rough remote track. I pass fewer cars on the way to some of my jobs during the week, plus the road is alot worse.

I was told the road from William Creek to Coober Pedy is rough and dangerous. I did it at night with 65W high beams, had no trouble, just drove appropriately.

I guess it all comes down to luck.

Am I missing something.
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Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 17:24

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 17:24
Hi Siringo,

Your quote: "if it's like the Oodnadatta track (which I travelled in 2012 and thought was supposed to be remote), then I should see someone every 5 - 30 minutes."

The Oodnadatta Track is gravelled and sometimes sees a grader. It does not cross high sand dunes. The tracks out in the Simpson are just sand, not really formed, are not gravelled and don't get graded, though years ago some of them were constructed for mining purposes - but that work has almost disappeared by now. Both tracks go through remote country, but I don't think that they are really comparable.

You appear to be well set up for remote area travel - about the only thing missing from your list is a relief driver. That is something to be given serious consideration.

After that, its your call.

Cheers,

Val
J and V
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Follow Up By: Siringo - Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 18:42

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 18:42
Thanks for the input Val, much appreciated.
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Reply By: time waster - Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 18:57

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 18:57
Sounds like you are well set up and have some experience, we did it on our own from East to West 4 years ago with two small kids and had a ball, we did find some of the dunes very challenging even at 12psi and had to use Maxtrax on two.

We spent 5 days in the Desert but should have spent longer, average speed was around 15kph, main thing is stay on the uhf channel and use a high sand flag, the amount of traffic we had with neither become scary at times.

Christian








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Follow Up By: time waster - Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 19:07

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 19:07




simpson




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Follow Up By: jo b1 - Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013 at 14:20

Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013 at 14:20
That would be 09, right.
The sand was soft and the scenery stunning unlike last year with all the vegetation and hard sand.
I remember in 09 just before we left the woman who was a regular poster here and worked at the Birdsville Caravan Park was advising people not to go that year as it was so dry and no wildflowers or vegetation.....well the pictures show another story !!!!!
J
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Reply By: Siringo - Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 19:30

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 19:30
Thanks Christian. That first photo is magnificent.
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Follow Up By: time waster - Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 20:29

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013 at 20:29
A couple more, you will love it





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Follow Up By: Ozrover - Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013 at 09:34

Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013 at 09:34
Don't expect to see that much sand!!

With three wet summers there was a lot of vegetation out there, now this summer has been dry it's all dying off!

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Follow Up By: Siringo - Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013 at 10:03

Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013 at 10:03
Is there still water around Big Red, Jeff?
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Follow Up By: Ozrover - Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013 at 10:51

Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013 at 10:51
There may be some left at the moment, but I doubt if there will be any by the time you get there.

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Reply By: outdoorgaz - Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013 at 10:51

Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013 at 10:51
This is a great thread for me at the moment as I am planning an East-West solo trip in June/July 2013.

Be doing it in a 2 year old FJ Cruiser with self recovery gear, first aid, UHF, sat phone, epirb, extra water and food and experience in remote travel but not across the Simpson (although headed west from Big Red for a couple of hours last year to get a feel for it).

Travelling as light as possible with plenty of fuel and the highest level of RACQ cover in to help out with potential recovery.

There are certainly more risks going solo but I have tried to account for as many as possible to minimise the consequences should something go wrong.

The biggest risk could be meeting another vehicle at the top of a dune heading west/east which seems the most popular direction. To minimise this I'm looking at the WAA line. Thoughts?

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Follow Up By: Member - Scott M (NSW) - Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013 at 17:27

Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013 at 17:27
use a sand flag - keep channel 10 open - dog whistle on the UHF regularly - should be OK
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Follow Up By: outdoorgaz - Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013 at 19:19

Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013 at 19:19
Got the sand flag but the dog whistle is a new one :)

Thanks
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Reply By: craigandej - Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013 at 13:03

Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013 at 13:03
Yes go for it. Just be well prepared. Did it alone with wife a few years back. Broke a rear axle past the Colson track turn off on the French Line. Had to HF contact back to Newcastle to get new axle flown up to Mt Dare & it took 5 days to get it there. Meanwhile we settled in, I pulled the axle out and made a slow front wheel drive exit out of the desert. We had heaps of food/water and know how to get out of the situation.

Enjoy



AnswerID: 507203

Follow Up By: Siringo - Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013 at 13:48

Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013 at 13:48
Breakages happen to all types of vehicles. Old, new, cheap, expensive. Out of interest, how old was your vehicle craigandej?

I have a full manufacturers workshop manual on a netbook PC that I reference when needed. You can't get parts out of it, but it's proved to be a very useful item.
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Follow Up By: craigandej - Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013 at 17:13

Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013 at 17:13
It was a 6 yr old Defender, the rear half shafts had just been replaced before the trip, so replacements were sent up free of charge. Upon returning home the broken shaft was sent for analysis and apparently was poor quality. Never paid a cent though, just cost me a week in the desert.

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Follow Up By: Siringo - Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013 at 18:29

Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013 at 18:29
I'd call 6yo a new vehicle. Good you didn't have to pay anything though.

Costing you a week in the desert, I can see how that wouldn't be a problem, but also how it would.

Thanks for the input.
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Reply By: Mark T6 - Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 13:40

Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 13:40
Sand flag a must (I forgot that above), and yes at the top of every dune (I know it's a pain but have to do it) a quick annoucement of where you are (see below), how many in your party and which direction you are going.

Along the way you'll see distance markers, you might say (for example) "Party of one, just past Marker 75, Eastbound"

It works MOST of them time, I was the leader across much of the Simmo for a group of 6 in 2011, and I did strike a vehicle coming across from Birdsville that never said a thing on Chan 10, and if it wasn't for the sand flag I would have met him head on at the top of a dune, with both if us under power!!

It's a magic spot, some of the Vista's are just to die for!!
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